FILE - In this Jan. 15, 2020, file photo specialist Scott Vasilisin, right works with trader Michael Milano on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. The U.S. stock market opens at 9:30 a.m. EST on Wednesday, Jan. 22. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

US stocks rise as health authorities focus on China virus

January 22, 2020 - 2:04 pm

Technology companies led stocks higher on Wall Street in afternoon trading Wednesday, erasing the market's losses from the day before.

The rebound came as health authorities around the world took steps to monitor and contain a deadly virus outbreak in China to keep it from spreading globally. China and other countries ramped up screenings for fever on aircraft and at airports, and the World Health Organization was expected to meet to determine whether the virus is a health emergency.

The international measures helped reassure Wall Street a day after financial markets sold off over fears that the outbreak in the world's second-largest economy could spread, hurting tourism and ultimately economic growth and corporate profits.

The coronavirus has been confirmed in five countries, including China, the U.S., Thailand, Japan and South Korea. As of Wednesday, more than 500 people were confirmed infected with the virus and 17 had died from the illness, which can cause pneumonia and other severe respiratory symptoms.

IBM led the gains in the technology sector Wednesday after the company reported solid quarterly results. Many of the companies in the sector are reliant on China for sales and could suffer if that nation’s economy slumps.

Communications services and health care stocks also made solid gains. AT&T rose 1.4%, while Abbott Laboratories added 2.6%.

Energy companies were the biggest decliners as oil prices slipped more than 2%. Noble Energy slid 3.3%.

Industrial and real estate stocks also headed lower.

KEEPING SCORE: The S&P 500 index was up 0.3% as of 1:46 p.m. Eastern time. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 68 points, or 0.2%, to 29,264. The Nasdaq rose 0.6%. The Russell 2000 index of smaller company stocks added 0.2%. European markets were mostly lower and Asian markets climbed.

HOME SWEET HOME: Homebuilders marched broadly higher following new data showing that U.S. home sales climbed 3.6% last month. The National Association of Realtors said that sales of previously occupied homes rose in December to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.54 million.

For all of 2019, 5.34 million homes were sold — matching the 2018 level. High mortgage rates hurt sales in the first half of the last year, while lower rates boosted purchases in the second half.

Hovnanian Enterprises led the homebuilder rally, gaining 2.6%.

SLOW STREAM: Netflix slid 3% after the entertainment company gave investors a weak forecast for new subscribers during the first quarter. The company is facing tougher competition from Disney, Apple and others. It warned investors that it is seeing more U.S. customers dropping the service.

COMPUTING GAINS: IBM rose 3.3% after giving investors a solid profit forecast for the year. The technology company ended 2019 with surprisingly good profits and revenue.

CHARGING AHEAD: Electric vehicle maker Tesla vaulted 7.2%, attaining a $100 billion market capitalization for the first time.

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AP Business Writer Damian J. Troise contributed.

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